For rabbi touched by Las Vegas shooting, Colorado club shooting raises the same old questions

BY RABBI JAMIE HYAMS | NOVEMBER 22, 2022

The shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs hit really close to home. Until last month, I served as the rabbi of Congregation P’nai Tikvah, a warm, welcoming and affirming Las Vegas synagogue known to have many LGBTQ members. This attack, like the 2016 Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, felt like it was aimed directly at our members and friends.

It is ironic that in last week’s Torah portion, when the patriarch Abraham goes to the Hittites to purchase land for his wife Sarah’s burial, he says, “I am a resident alien among you.” In that moment, Abraham, known for his hospitality and welcoming of strangers, feels that he does not belong, and as he doesn’t own land, he has no permanent home.

We all seek a sense of permanence and a feeling that we belong.

In discussing this passage at our Torah study, a trans woman related how Abraham’s sense of alienation resonated with her. She explained that she often feels like “the other,” and she longs for a place of belonging.

On a road trip to Colorado Springs last month, she sought out Club Q as a safe space on an otherwise lonely journey. Club Q provided her a much-needed oasis, and it is devastating that the shooter presumably felt so threatened by the LGBTQ community that he would resort to violence against innocent people gathering on a Saturday night.

Life is fleeting, and we never know when it will end.

In 2017, the night before the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shooting in Las Vegas, I dropped my then 79-year-old mother off at the Tropicana hotel, which is adjacent to the concert venue and across the street from the Mandalay Bay. The noise from the festival was thunderous, and my mom commented that she wished she had stayed across the street on the highest floors of the Mandalay Bay.

Hours later, bullets rained down from those same floors onto the innocent concertgoers below.

Yes, life is fleeting, and we never know when it will end, but as Jews we are taught “Justice, justice, pursue.” We work to build the world that we want to come.

That a shooting of this magnitude could happen again is unacceptable.

I ask what others have asked before me: Why does a private citizen need a high-power rifle that can kill so many, so quickly? And how can it be that after we have lost so many to gun violence, we can’t get high-capacity weapons banned?

Gay, straight, trans, teenagers, Jews in prayer, Christians in Bible study … After so much loss, are human lives that expendable that we can’t overturn a bad law?

We send condolences to the family and friends of those lost, and prayers of healing to the wounded. We stand with the LGBTQ community at this dark time as we work to build a world where no one feels like they don’t belong.

Published in the J, the Jewish News of Northern California

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